U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) today defended the rights of same-sex couples in Washington state and across the country by reintroducing the Refund Equality Act. This legislation would ensure that legally-married same-sex couples — who until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision were barred from filing federal taxes jointly — are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage.
Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, a same-sex couple, legally married under state law, could not file federal income taxes as a married couple. After Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published guidance that clarified the IRS’s recognition of same-sex marriages, and stated that married same-sex couples could amend previously-filed tax returns to claim refunds or credits due as a result of corrected marital status.
Currently, married couples who previously filed taxes separately are permitted to file amended joint returns dating only back to three years, but the IRS lacks the authority to override this limitation. As a result, same-sex couples who were married in jurisdictions recognizing same-sex marriage prior to Windsor are unable to claim refunds for all years they were legally married. The Refund Equality Act would permit these couples to amend their tax returns for these years, allowing them to file jointly and to secure an estimated total of $57 million in refunds to which they are entitled.
“Even in states where they were legally married, the Federal Government prevented same-sex couples from filing their taxes jointly for years, causing them to miss out on millions of dollars in refunds that they are rightfully owed,” Senator Murray said. “This is unfair and unjust, and we must move quickly to correct this mistake.”
“Before Windsor established national marriage equality, same-sex married couples paid more in taxes simply because of who they loved. It’s time we right this wrong and give these couples the fair treatment on their tax bill they should have received years ago,” said Cantwell.
The legislation is cosponsored by 39 senators, including Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).
Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-Calif.) introduced the companion legislation last week in the House of Representatives, alongside Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), John Larson (D-Conn.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) as original cosponsors.